Friday, March 21, 2014

pioneering a pioneering week

It’s been an intensely busy, but very productive week.

We’ve had Dave Male from the UK with us. Each evening we’ve engaged in storytelling around pioneering. Four folk have told local stories – one of early cross-cultural encounter in Australia, one of community gardens and how they change church, one of participation of individuals in new forms of church, one of transitions. Each has been videod. Around each story was woven group processes to deepen encounter. This included creative worship (like St Patrick on St Patricks Day) and the perspectives of Dave and Heather Male.

During the day, Dave Male has been working with us on developing material for a distance course. This includes 6 key modules needed for pioneering, accompanied by a range of resources (readings, video grabs of Dave Male, powerpoint, stories). The 4 local stories will add richness, all enhanced by the soundbite video clips and quotes we’ve been grabbing all week from those who participated in the evening sessions.

The result is that we’ve been able to develop what will be an online Pioneering topic that will be available in both our Diploma and Bachelor of Ministry.

It also makes possible a Diploma of Ministry in Pioneering, a one year equivalent period of study, that can be done full-time or part-time, face to face or by distance. A Diploma neatly integrates into the Bachelor of Ministry for folk who want to study further. But not everyone wants to do three years, so a one year Diploma, or a one semester topic, is an important addition to our training options as a College.

As Dave commented after we’d shown him the syllabus –

“This is a fantastic course that equips missional leaders for the present and the future of the church. I would encourage any leader to consider coming on this. It has some of the best material and teachers in the pioneering world.”

There is still some work to put all this together as a finished product but it’s been a very productive week.

Posted by steve at 07:10 PM

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Happy 5th birthday Uniting College

We celebrated Uniting College being five at Presbytery Synod last night. Some thought it was a milestone worth a cake.

As well as the cake, we also provided 400 individual cup cakes for supper, all with our logo.

Before the cake and candles, there was a bit of an introduction to the journey of this five year old. It was laced with prayer; a highlight of being one, of being two, of being three etc, followed by an audience response, including rifting off a Paul Kelly song.

Here’s the liturgical responses

synod feb 2014

And for those interested, here’s the full script … (more…)

Posted by steve at 08:07 AM

Friday, March 14, 2014

Any other duties as required by the Principal

I have a great team … as we prepare as a College for Destiny together, a week of prayer and fasting …

Posted by steve at 10:13 AM

Friday, February 28, 2014

we have liftoff – Big Year Out is go for 2014

We’re delighted to announce that Big Year Out, our new discipleship programme for young adults, is a go for 2014. As of today, we have the necessary students we needed to make it a viable learning community.

This means that from next week, Dan Anear will be with us at Uniting College two days a week and we will have a bunch of young adults making themselves at home around the Campus during Semesters.

In response to feedback during promotion, we will be making a few tweaks to the 2014 Big Year Out programme. This will include moving from the day to the evening in order to offer a Young adult taster space. We see this as a chance to connect with the young adults who said “I’d love to do it, but I can only do an evening.” It means that any young adults who want a weekly evening space to chat and talk God, mission, life, ministry, are welcome.

We are also going to ramp up the mission-in-local-context component, encouraging participants to find a ministry opportunity and use that as credit toward the Certificate.

There is a strong sense of this being a God thing. On Wednesday we did not have enough enrolments and so made the difficult decision, that despite a heap of advertising and praying, we could not go ahead.

As we left that meeting, a just completed enrolment form was handed to us. On Thursday two more enrolment forms arrived, giving us the group size we felt we needed to ensure a worthwhile learning experience. (And it’s not too late to enrol, either in the full programme or in the evening Young Adult space).

There is a sense that we stopped. And into that space came the surprise of God. Which is a great space for us as a College to be in 🙂

Posted by steve at 05:37 PM

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Did you just hear that loud ‘pop’?

It was the sound of champagne opening to celebrate that the Adelaide College of Divinity, of which Uniting College is a member, has been assessed as providing higher education to the same high quality standards as other universities and higher education providers across Australia, at all course levels.

This means that as a registered Higher Education Provider, ACD undergraduate courses, including those taught by Uniting College, have been accredited, for a further seven years, with no conditions.

In the words of ACD Executive Officer, Janet Buchan, “Now we can happily get on with the ‘business’ of education– putting students front and centre of everything we do”.

Note: This news is a followup to news in December that our post-graduate course offerings had also been granted seven years accreditation. One concrete result since then has been 18 new postgraduate student enrolments, from 8 different denominations and 3 different countries.

Posted by steve at 05:58 PM

Thursday, February 13, 2014

strong words, but team words

Today at our team meeting, I read from the weeks lectionary reading – 1 Corinthians 3:1-6. It is very strong in the Message. So strong that I felt I needed to begin by reminding the team these were Paul’s words, not my words 🙂

But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile?

Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.

I then invited us to name each other truly. None of us are Paul. None of us are Apollos. We are each unique. And so our task was, in small groups, to remind each other of our unique value to the team. And then to pray for each other, for the field in which we are working.

We’re two weeks away from the start of Semester. We’ve got our best enrolment figures in years. We’re launching a whole range of new topics – Bible and culture, pioneering, global mission, chaplaincy. We’re in the midst of a major resourcing of our online capacities, exploring blended learning – topics in which student learning includes online delivery of content and instruction – building connections and enhancing community student to student and teacher to student. We’ve got new postgraduate courses with very strong enrolments. We’ve seen a 60% change in the make up of our team in the last 18 months.

We can only do this as servants, differently gifted, gradually learning to entrust our lives to our mutual Master. Strong words, yet perhaps for us team words.

Posted by steve at 08:48 PM

Thursday, February 06, 2014

from Waitangi to Walking on Country

Today is Waitangi Day in my homeland. On this day in 1840, a Treaty was signed between Maori people of New Zealand and the Queen. While it is a times a contested document, it stills stands as a seminal moment in the history of New Zealand and in how two people’s might relate to each other. Over the years of my time of ministry in New Zealand, it provided a rich ground for reflection – in sermons, in prayer, in communion.

Today, here at Uniting College, in Adelaide, Australia, is the start of Walking on Country. It might be coincidence, but I don’t think we’d be Walking on Country without Waitangi Day, without the energy that Rosemary Dewerse and myself, both New Zealanders, both Missiologists, both shaped by being Kiwi, being Christian, both now here at Uniting College, have poured into this.

Today a group of about 20 people headed off to the Flinders Ranges, to the land of the Adnyamathanha people. They will be led by local indigenous leaders, to be in their world, to hear their stories. It is the 2nd year we as a College have run this. (See here and here and here).

It was a few days that had more impact on our life as a College in 2013 than any other few days that year. New insights, new relationships (including Pilgrim Uniting), new sensitivity. Thanks Waitangi Day, for pushing us toward Walking on Country.

Posted by steve at 11:08 AM

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation

There is a lovely paper by Bishop Steve Croft on the Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation. It emerges ecumenically, from his participation as the Anglican Fraternal Delegate to the Synod of Bishops in Rome: a three week gathering of Roman Catholic Cardinals and Bishops with Pope Benedict to explore the single theme of the new evangelization.

(Three weeks on evangelization! I’ve never heard of a Protestant denomination gathering their key leaders for 3 whole weeks on mission topics)

The paper suggests seven disciplines
1. The discipline of prayerful discernment and listening (contemplation)
2. The discipline of apologetics (defending and commending the faith)
3. The discipline of evangelism (initial proclamation)
4. The discipline of catechesis (learning and teaching the faith)
5. The discipline of ecclesial formation (growing the community of the church)
6. The discipline of planting and forming new ecclesial communities (fresh expressions of the church)
7. The discipline of incarnational mission (following the pattern of Jesus)

It’s a helpful framework for me to now look at our curriculum as a College, seeing if we’re helping folk engage with this breadth.

And it makes me glad that we as a College are involved in A Clear Call conference, followed by an Evangelism, Conversion and the Mission of God intensive. I’ve looked at the course outline and I’m excited that the focus on the discipline of evangelism will be an entry point into all seven of these disciplines.

Posted by steve at 08:15 AM

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

pioneering workshop update

Yesterday I led a Pioneering workshop, a day in which I invited the Uniting church in South Australia to reflect on the processes of selection, discernment, training, placing of pioneers in our life.

The “agenda” was 3 questions

  • what are we hearing?
  • what is the biggest question?
  • what could be a next step?

The day was based around hearing from pioneers – their experiences of our system. So we split into 3 groups and each group heard from 2 pioneers, who were asked in about 15 minutes to share their experience. Each group then shared back to main gathering “what are we hearing”? Ben Edson, from the UK was with us and as an external voice, from another church system, provided his feedback.

That was the morning. In the afternoon, I invited people back into the initial groups. Pioneers were still present. Each group was asked to clarify the biggest question needing to be asked as a result of the hearing – a question for selection, for discerning, for training, for placing. Plus an elephant in the room question.

That yielded 15 questions. Those were shared back in the main group and people then gathered around the question that most interested them, to try and come up with a next step. About 8 ideas emerged, all to be directed toward relevant bodies within the church. Some were affirmations, other were significant next steps. Some were quite radical and would lead to major change in our system.

Time will tell the results. But their was a really lovely feel in the room. And it was so lovely to be with 35 people, listening to pioneers share their story.

Posted by steve at 06:51 AM

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

hi ho (to watch Lost and Banksy and U2)

It’s my first day back at work today.

And I get to spend it at Flinders, talking about movies, street art and concerts – more specifically Lost, Banksy and U2. It is part of an innovation, in which we are using the (new) Summer School window at Flinders, to offer courses on campus that might be of wider public interest.

So we quietly worked away last year, putting a new topic – Bible and Culture – through academic processes at Flinders.

It seems to have worked, of the enrolments, 12 are non-Theology students, which means a wider public engagement (and a much more diverse and interesting class-room).

So today I spend the morning teaching, talking about the “and culture” part of a topic called Bible and culture. I’ll chat about how I became a film reviewer and the tools I use to do that year after year, from a theology slant. We’ll look at the rise of popular culture and ways to understand the ongoing presence of Christianity in culture.

All while watching Lost and looking at Bansky and considering Bono’s hand gestures!

Posted by steve at 08:27 AM

Monday, December 23, 2013

postgraduate affirmation with TEQSA accreditation

Big news for us at ACD/Uniting College:  TEQSA (Tertiary Education Qualifications Standards Authority) in Australia has accredited our post-graduate courses for another 7 years, with no conditions attached.

That’s like getting A+ for an exam, the best result possible.

TEQSA ensure quality control for all universities and higher education providers in Australia. On a regular basis, they audit courses, asking for extensive evidence of what we are providing and the quality standards we are working toward.

This is followed by a site visit (ours was held in October) before review by an independent panel of academics from three other providers, before a report is provided to their Commission. It is an ardurous process, one that has taken a huge amount of time and energy over the 2013 year.

In making our application for ongoing accreditation, we also decided as a College to take the opportunity to innovate, proposing a number of significant changes. In no particular order

  • we created a Graduate Diploma in Ministry, a one year (full-time equivalent) offering, including an entry point for those who have not done theology study before. This arose out of a desire to provide pathways for lay training, particularly those who want to focus on ministry in all spheres of life
  • we standardised the former 1, 3 and 6 credit point structure of our post-graduate programmes into 4.5 credits. This makes our postgraduate offerings consistent with our undergraduate offerings and with Flinders University, allowing smoother cross-crediting pathways for students
  • we clarified the research focus of our Doctor of Ministry. Recently TEQSA announced changes to ensure that professional doctorates across all education spheres maintain a research focus. They wanted to see a professional doctorate as a research degree of excellence. We welcomed these changes, as they fit with our ethos, a practical theology that seeks a rigour of action and theory reflection. While other Christian theology providers have responded by moving out of the DMin arena, we argued to TEQSA that our existing structures, with a few modifications and clarifications, met these research standards. We’re delighted that TEQSA agree with us and that we can continue to offer a DMin with a high quality research focus on ministry practice
  • at the same time, we wanted to maintain and underline our collegial approach to post-graduate ministry. The student working alone on an extended project is in sharp contrast to the realities of ministry, which require peer learning. So in making our application to TEQSA, we proposed a pathway which will ensure all our post-graduate (Diploma, Master and Doctor) form a regular peer learning community, in which they gain encouragement and peer review. We believe this will lift standards, enhance the experience of participation in a learning community, in a way consistent with the collegial nature of ministry. In other words, degrees to serve the church in ministry and mission, through high quality, creatively rigorous practical theology.

The response by TEQSA – 7 years accreditation and no conditions – we take as a huge endorsement of our direction, our standards and the research community with the focus on a high quality practical theology we are creating.

And a great Christmas present to ACD, Uniting College and our post-graduate community.

Posted by steve at 08:04 AM

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Broken Hill bound: updated 1st communion

I’m off to Broken Hill for the weekend. It’s a town of some 18,000 people, some 520 kilometres from Adelaide.

I’m going for the Ordination of one of our Uniting College Candidates, Jo Smalbil. Three years ago, Jo embarked on an experiment with us. After discussion with her Presbytery, she crossed the border (Broken Hill is in New South Wales, not South Australia). She spent the first year with us in Adelaide.

But for the last two years, she has been studying with us from Broken Hill. In sum, after some initial relational building, she’s down 2/3rds of her training in her local context.

Study wise, she comes down for our intensives and does the rest by distance. Relational wise, we pay for her to travel 9 times a year, to our monthly Leadership Formation Days, up and back in a day. This gives her a sense of connection with candidates. Fieldwork wise she has worked in her local church and participated in Frontier patrol work.

It’s a fascinating, and in Jo’s case, effective experiment, the fruit of which is evident over the weekend.

The only down side is that the only flight for Broken Hill leaves at 6:45 am Saturday, and returns 7 pm Sunday. It makes for an early start and a long weekend.

Posted by steve at 06:11 AM

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

seeking Director of Christian Education and Discipleship

Due to one of our team being called by another part of the church …. we at Uniting College need to find a Director of Christian Education and Discipleship. It’s a crucial part of our life as a College – we took the risk in 2009 of moving away from the traditional academic divisions of Bible, Theology and Pastoral – to four streams – Bible, Missiology, Leadership and Christian Education/Discipleship. So this role is crucial in ensuring the formation, discipling, learning piece. Here’s the brief advertisement, if you want more information, contact me on steve dot taylor at flinders dot edu dot au

Essential to Uniting College is a commitment to placing discipleship and faith formation at the heart of learning, leading and living. We seek a Director of Christian Education and Discipleship (0.7-1.0), to equip for Christian discipleship and resource congregational formation for Christian living in daily life. The role includes academic leadership, teaching and co-ordination of VET. Applications close 5 December, 2013.

Posted by steve at 10:10 PM

Friday, November 22, 2013

connecting networks: a sausage, a story, a space

At Uniting College last night, we played host to the Urban Mission Network. Drinks and nibbles began at 6 pm, followed by a bbq in the common space. The 60 people present were then divided into three groups and inviting to participate in three different learning spaces, around which they rotated every 15 minutes. In each space was a different dessert and a different presentation.

One was our new Vanier space, in which the story of it’s birth was told. Another was a lecture room in which three Faculty presented in 5 minutes each something from a recent lecture. In a third space, highlights from the 2013 year were shared, linked to our Strategic plan.

The approach allowed lots of participation from the College team, it got people into the range of learning spaces that make up the College, it allowed for variety in presentation.

Finally we gathered for worship, concluding at around 9 pm.

It was wonderful to be hosting folk from the church, to be telling the College story, to hear the buzz of conversation and questions as people engaged and participated.

The Uniting Church in South Australia has around six active mission networks. Each meet regularly, moving around different churches, who take turns to host and to tell their story.

Hence the obvious idea, to suggest to each network that they consider us as a church. Could we take a turn to host, to tell our story, to participate in the natural rhythm of their life? So we asked, and the Urban mission network were the first to respond and a great night was had by all.

We hope in the future there will be more mission networks, willing to let us offer them a sausage, a story and space.

Posted by steve at 06:29 PM